A woman's journey through her breast cancer diagnosis

A woman's journey through her breast cancer diagnosis

October is breast cancer awareness month, one of the most frustrating things right after a diagnosis is processing a flood of new information.

That's where nurse navigators come in.

"It was like the life had been just sucked out of me," said breast cancer survivor Amanda Cornell. "Nothing can prepare you for that."

It was the worst news of Amanda Cornell's life.

It came with a mountain of questions, fear and anxiety.

She didn't know anything about breast cancer or what to do next.

"I just thought 'oh gosh,' one more person I have to talk to."

Julie Alridge is a nurse navigator. She guides people through the scary world of breast cancer.

"I always say that I think patients get a mini medical degree with this diagnosis and they're asked to make all these decisions which they have no history in making those types of decisions."

The first nurse navigator program was launched in 1990.

They're now in hospitals around the country but not always available to every cancer patient.

There's a growing movement to change that, by training more nurses and expanding the programs.

Amanda knows how critical a role they play. She says Julie was like a life coach, helping her take back control, when it seemed impossible.

"When I found out I was going to lose my left breast that was probably harder than anything and so I didn't go to Julie and she showed me pictures of patients who've gone through mastectomies and I thought 'oh, that doesn't look so bad.'"

"That's what I do. What I do is to really help patients kind of take them off the ceiling after this horrible diagnosis and bring everything down and put it in a framework and they can move forward," said Alridge.

After a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation, Amanda is cancer free.

She feels lucky.

She not only survived, but came through it with a new friend who turned out to be a lifesaver.

"It's wonderful to just help somebody's day be easier, really to east their way in a really difficult time is amazing. I love it."

If you or a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis, ask your oncology team about a nurse navigator.

You can also call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find out if there is a patient navigator program in your area.

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